Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Villages at a Month (with pictures)

Corey, Robin and grey kitten

Had a Happy Gobble with niece Robin and her betrothed Corey. They drove up on Friday from Sarasota to share a bird and a porcine hip with Dan, Sue, me and the two kittens. This week will see my farewell to The Villages and a move to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi for some poker with my buddies.

an ornament in a pear palm tree

Yesterday was holiday decoration day, accompanied by Mimosas and generalized frivolity. Dan and I took to the exterior aggrandizement, which included my adding accents to the indigenous flora.

Dan, Sue and aforementioned kitten

My final words on The Villages of Florida for this trip are: 'I will be back.' I enjoyed the quality time with Dan and Sue, plus this is a very interesting place. Hopefully, next trip my health will allowed a more participatory engagement with all The Villages have to offer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Harry in Orlando

Yes, the late middle-aged clan made a trip to Orlando to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The reviews couldn't be more different. The two Universal parks each have a Potter attraction. Hogsweade is interesting, architecturally fun and has five roller coaster type rides. Not being 'ride people' we were done in about an hour. Then we took the Hogswart Express to Diagon Alley in the other park for a completely different experience.

Dragon Alley is large, has lots of shops and great visuals. The dragon on top of Gringotts Bank spews fire every few minutes. The butter beer was -- well butter beer. You can purchase wands, robes, quidditch equipment and uniforms all at outrageous prices.

If you're going, do as we did, see Hogsmeade first then train over to Diagon Alley. Reviewing at least the first two films (or books) will completely reimmerse you in all the Potter lore you need to enjoy your visit.

Insider tip: we chose the coldest day we could find, a brisk 50-55 degrees, which meant the crowds were smaller by at least half. If you go mid-summer or around the holidays; well I'm very sorry.

One final warning, if you have resisted the rides at Hogsmeade do not, repeat do not make the mistake of taking your final ride opportunity at Gringotts. We saw several slightly green faces leaving that ride. Do take the tour of Gringotts (great goblins) and the Castle just take the last exit before boarding the stomach wrenching rides.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Villages -- An Update

Three weeks into my adventures in Leisureville. I have some semi-insider observations:

If you plan to move here or to any other 'exclusive community' you should try a vacation rental first. They all have rental units available for a week or a month. Most of the current residents did exactly that and therefore understood what the community they were getting into was all about. Almost to a person they love living here.

The few, who are unhappy and will or have moved away, they didn't give The Villages a good trial run. If I haven't been clear before, this is a very different lifestyle. Several of the locals I've met had just come back from a Caribbean cruise. They all said something like: "It was like living in The Villages but on the ocean." This really is permanent resort living.

Yes, you can get around nearly the entire community on a golf cart. There are over 100 miles of paved golf cart paths. Population now hovers at around 108,000+ over a 50% increase since the 2010 census. About 20 people move into The Villages every day of the year. There are new subdivisions and more golf courses being built. For the golf nuts, there are currently 540 holes with build-out projections at 621 holes, the largest concentration of greens in the world.

As for the singles scene, it does exist but in truth the majority of the residents are couples. Sure they might spend their days at different activities, pools, clubs and golf courses but in the evening they tend to show up to happy hour together.

Is The Villages for everyone? Absolutely not. For like minded individuals this really can be paradise, but you had best be sure this is your cup of tea or glass of wine because this is definitely not for everyone. Might I repeat -- definitely not (but then again).

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Look away if you are a dog person. My brother and sister-in-law adopted the frantic KC just a few weeks ago. That's her with the blue ball.

This past week, we went to the Cat Protection Society in Eustis, Florida to get her a playmate. Now they have a two kitten household, KC and the new kitten on the block currently referred to as "the little one" or "gray kitty" or "Ouch! Don't bite!".

"the little gray one"

Yes, there were two cats in the frame when I took the picture.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Correlation or Cause?

What issue do these five groups have in common?

1) Police Unions
2) Private Prisons Corporations
3) Alcohol and Beer Companies
4) Pharmaceutical Corporations
5) Prison Guard Unions
Hint: They are all opposed to a current reform issue favored by a majority of U.S. citizens.
Yes, indeed it's the legalization of marijuana. Too much federal drug enforcement money flows to police departments. Too many prisoners locked up for minor drug offenses. In fact, we wouldn't need a single 'private prison' if pot were legal. Alcohol and Beer -- Duh! 
But the truly sickest opposition comes from the pharmaceutical industry. If cheap pot replaced dozens of their high-priced pills what would happen to corporate profits. Never mind that cannabis is safer and more effective than the chemicals being pushed by the corporate drug giants.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Leisureville: A Book (and a lifestyle) Review

"Behind all the gated age-restricted leisure, ersatz architectural nostalgia, and nightly hanky-panky, what I saw in The Villages is a concerted effort by a segment of older Americans to find community--something that in today's turbulent world can be hard to chance upon, particularly for the elderly. Many Villagers simply don't care if they live in an autocratic fantasyland founded on a policy of segregation; they just want a place to call home, a geritopia where they can be comfortable among their peers.

Most of the Villagers I met were blissful--thankful that such a place existed and that they had been lucky enough to find it. Retirement can be a stressful stage of life. There's no script to follow for the decades between giving up work and reaching advanced old age. Private developers such as Webb and Morse are filling that void for some people, peddling a glamorized vision of serene, financially predicable leisure living in segregated resort-like communities. It's a powerful vision that has proved to be very appealing to a sizable segment of aging Americans."

So opens the penultimate chapter of Andrew Blechman's book based mostly on the place where I am staying this month -- The Villages in Central Florida. I strongly recommend the book to anyone who ventures near this blog. If you are a progressive, you really need to inform yourself about what is happening far from your door. If you're conservative, there are a huge flock of like-minded individuals congregating in a land not so far away. And for my very few readers who actually are moderates, this place is fascinating or creepy or both at the same time.

After yesterday's election, one might consider just how far apart the red and blue sides of this country are. The stark contrast is geographically played out here at The Villages. The residents and snow-birds dominate local elections. Republican candidates flock to campaign here, paying homage to the mass of aging, white, conservative voters.

There are so many aspects to this place: political, social, anthropological, even constitutional. Read the book, I promise you will open your eyes a bit wider at what the Boomer generation hath wrought.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Why Would You?

I had a really long and clever rant ready for this space, but after witnessing the vile political ads in nearly every state I have visited, I decided we could all use a break from those talking heads from Washington and other related parts of the unknown universe. None of them seem to come from where any of us actually live our lives. Total disconnect.

So I will leave you this election with my now 42 year old whisper in your ear.

If you again make the choice for the lesser of two evils, you still get evil. Make the leap of faith and vote for a third party candidate.

Saturday, November 01, 2014


I have arrived in Florida and am now living in Leisureville (32162). Of course, I am reading the book and will be anthropologically investigating with intense participant-observer dedication. Reports to follow over the next 30 days. I do recommend the book for an interesting look into what some Baby Boomers are doing with their (our) golden years.

Berkeley to The Villages via Mt. Shasta, Boulder, Shakopee, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Hinckley and overnight stops in between: 4,845 miles.